Remarks by President Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff

The White House

East Room

12:06 P.M. EDT

THE FIRST LADY: Good morning.

AUDIENCE: Good morning!

THE FIRST LADY: As we gather in honor of the High Holy Days, I know that all of our hearts are with those affected by the hurricanes.

May — many have had to flee their homes, as you’ve seen. Temples will be shuttered on Yom Kippur. And some will have to break their fast without beloved family beside them.

I hope that their faith and our prayers bring them comfort during this dark time.

In Judaism, the Days of Awe — these 10 days of reflection and repentance — call for introspection. But it’s not an endeavor taken alone.

The prayers on Yom Kippur begin with “we.” We have gone astray. We have not lived up to the best versions of ourselves — as individuals and as a community.

It’s a recognition of a powerful truth: that we fail together, we forgive together, and we heal together, too.

That’s why there is hope to be found in this sacred time as well.

It’s a chance to release the burdens that have weighed us down and reach toward the light of the divine; to be with family, facing the best and worst of ourselves surrounded by love, knowing that we will emerge stronger than before.

It’s a moment to remember that we — the path we walk will one day end and hold close those who travel beside us.

The Days of Awe remind us that it’s never too late to begin again.

We, all of us, are a work in progress. So we continue that work: speaking truth, fighting for — for justice, believing that we can heal our broken world.

Let us look toward the past with wisdom and turn toward the future with joy.

Let us remember that there is hope and healing ahead. In our highs and our lows, we are not alone, and there is beauty and sweetness in every step of the way.

Now, I’m grateful to be here with my family, including so many people who have become family over the years. (Laughter.) And that — it now includes Kamala and Doug.

You know, there are so many things — (applause) — yes. You know, there are so many things that you have both brought to our lives. But during the High Holidays, I am especially grateful for the chance to join you, Doug, in honoring traditions that I know that you hold close to your heart.

So, thank you for spending this special time with us.

Everyone, please welcome the Second Gentleman, Doug Emhoff. (Applause.)

THE SECOND GENTLEMAN: Thank you, my good friend Dr. Biden. You have always been such a leader in bringing people together, and you do it with compassion, and you do it with purpose. And that’s exactly what you’re doing here today by welcoming our Jewish community to the White House. So, thank you so much.

And on a personal note — back at you — (laughter) — you and the President have really made our family feel like your family. So, thank you so much.

And again, I also want to echo Dr. Biden’s words of comfort to those who have been affected by these horrible storms. Our prayers are with you, and we will continue to do everything we can to support all of you and your families and your communities.

And my wife, the Vice President — Kamala and I — (applause) — we’re honored to join you as well as we welcome in this new year. Shana Tova.

And it’s a particular honor for me as the first Jewish spouse of a President or a Vice President. (Applause.)

But do you know, for years, as a lot of you know, the Bidens invited our community for celebrations when they lived at the Vice President’s Residence. And now, the Vice President Harris and I — my wife — (laughter) — are — we are very grateful that we get to continue in the tradition that they set forth.

The doorposts there are protected by mezuzot — that’s two mezuzahs. We hosted a Passover Seder. We’ve lit a historic menorah for Hanukkah. But now, we gather in the White House during the Days of Awe, as Dr. Biden mentioned, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Now, in my family, Rosh Hashanah meant a trip to my grandmother’s apartment in Brooklyn. (Laughter.) And I can still smell that brisket cooking — and burning — in the kitchen. (Laughter.) I can still taste the slightly warm challah, but slightly stale — (laughter) — on the table.

And, of course, as a lot of you remember, my grandmother begged all of us kids not to jump on the couch because “I took the plastic coverings off!” (Laughter.)

But this is also a season to reflect and atone and repent for both of our shortcomings and those that we see around us.

And let’s be clear — we all know this: Jews worldwide face horrendous discrimination and violence and antisemitism. And one of the reasons that our great President ran for president was to confront the kinds of hate and antisemitism that we all saw and were mortified by in Charlottesville. (Applause.)

And on this issue — on this issue, we have a President and a Vice President who know that all Americans must be able to worship without fear or violence. (Applause.)

And we also know they are two leaders of deep faith who believe in tolerance and inclusion, not just for our Jewish community but for all communities. (Applause.)

And our President has said, and I quote, “If Jewish history and tradition teaches us anything, it’s the resilient belief in the promise of tomorrow.”

So as the Jewish community in the United States and Israel and around the world take stock and renew our hopes for the start to 5783, we are grateful to be sharing it in one of the Jewish community’s best friends.

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